Washington Redskins: 4 Players Who Made the Biggest Contributions in Week 15

Kevin CraftContributor IDecember 18, 2011

Washington Redskins: 4 Players Who Made the Biggest Contributions in Week 15

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    Rex Grossman is not a great football player, but there is something compelling and immensely watchable about the way he approaches the game.  

    Over his nine-year career, Grossman has thrown 56 interceptions and only 52 touchdowns. He has displayed the same type mentality as gun-slinging quarterbacks such as Brett Favre and Jeff George, but always lacked the talent required to achieve success through that style of play.  

    One would think that considering his propensity for turning the ball over, which is the reason Mike Shanahan benched him for three games earlier this season, Grossman would show some willingness to adapt, to limit the number of risks he takes during a game. But that simply isn't the case and probably never will be.   

    Consider the first play of Sunday's game against the New York Giants. The Redskins coaches called a flee flicker for Santana Moss, but the trickery did not fool the Giants defense in the least bit. Corey Webster, who was in coverage, did not bite on the fake and was running with Moss step for step on the play.  

    In that situation, most quarterbacks would have simply thrown the ball away. But not Grossman. He assessed the coverage and then chucked the ball in a somewhat nonchalant manner toward Moss' direction. Webster came up with the interception to no one's surprise, and Grossman trotted off the field as if nothing had happened.  

    Grossman would end up throwing a second interception later in the first quarter on a similarly ill-advised deep throw intended for Jabar Gaffney, but the two interceptions didn't seem to faze him in the least bit. He continued to fire away with reckless abandon until Kyle Shanahan legislated a more careful offensive approach by calling a disproportionate amount of running plays in the fourth quarter, and his approach ended up paying off.  

    The Redskins offense put up 23 points, which was more than enough to outscore an anemic Giants offensive unit whose only touchdown came long after the game's outcome had been decided.  

    Such is Grossman's approach to quarterbacking. It's an approach that values instinct over smart decision making and is markedly carefree. Even Grossman's pitches to running backs often seem to lack any sense of urgency and at times appear somewhat what perilous.  

    Grossman is the type of player who is never reluctant to pull the trigger. He has his moments—his accurate passes helped the Redskins convert eight out of 15 third downs against the Giants—but the positive aspects he brings to the football field will never outweigh the negatives.  

    Still, I can't help but be somewhat captivated by Grossman's unflinching approach to the game. He seems determined to play his way, even if that means he will end up holding a clipboard on the sidelines after this season.  

    The irony is that if fellow Redskins quarterback John Beck had showed the same willingness to take risks, he may have been able to retain the starting quarterback job. Beck has a big arm, but in his three starts, he seemed allergic to throwing the ball downfield despite the fact that his receivers were able to get open.  

    Beck instead opted to check down on almost every other play, which is why Roy Helu set the Redskins single game record for receptions by catching 14 passes for 105 yards.  

    Neither Beck nor Grossman is a viable long-term solution for the Redskins quarterback woes, but there's no question that the team is a lot more fun to watch when Grossman is under center. For that, I salute him.  

    Grossman played an integral part in the Redskins victory over the Giants. Here are four players and groups of players that also made big contributions in Sunday's win.

The Redskins Secondary

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    Coming into Sunday's game, the Redskins ranked last in turnover differential. The primary reason for that disparity is the offense's tendency to turn the ball over, but the defense's inability to force turnovers is also a contributing factor.  

    That changed in a hurry on Sunday, when Oshiomogho Atogwe, DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson each intercepted Eli Manning.  

    Atogwe got things started when he made a brilliant one-handed interception off a pass that deflected off London Fletcher's helmet.  

    Not to be outdone, Hall snagged a one-handed interception of his own off an under-thrown pass to Hakeem Nicks. 

    And Josh Wilson sealed things off by intercepting Manning in the end zone, preventing the Giants from igniting a potential comeback. 

    The Redskins secondary has been rightly maligned for much of this season, but the unit came up big on Sunday.

Roy Helu, Evan Royster and Darrel Young

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    As one of my readers astutely pointed out last week, the Redskins are a much better team when they run the ball consistently.  

    That statement may seem somewhat trite considering that a good running attack would be a boon to any team. But in today's pass-oriented NFL, there are a growing number of teams—the Saints, Packers and Patriots come to mind—that don't need to establish the run in order to achieve success. 

    The Redskins are not one of these teams. Mike Shanahan's offensive philosophy is firmly grounded in the principles of yore, meaning his teams need to run the ball effectively in order to set up the pass.  

    On Sunday, rookie running backs Roy Helu and Evan Royster and second-year fullback Darell Young gave the team a credible enough rushing attack to take some of the pressure off Grossman and the receivers. 

    The trio gained 103 yards and one touchdown on 37 carries, but that stat line does not reflect their true contributions. They ran the ball effectively early in the game, forcing the Giants defense to always account for their presence. 

    And Young seemed to break the Giants spirit when he scored from six yards out in the second quarter, giving the Redskins a 17-point lead that turned out to be insurmountable.  

Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney

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    For years and years and years, the Redskins have been trying to draft quality wide receivers to no avail.  

    Fortunately for them, two receivers they acquired through means other than the draft, Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney, have proven to be solid players capable of playing at a high level despite their advancing ages. 

    Against the Giants, Moss and Gaffney combined for 125 yards and one touchdown. More importantly, the tandem caught several key third-down conversions that sustained drives and kept momentum in the Redskins corner.  

    It remains to be seen whether Redskins management will once again try to draft a quality wide receiver. But even if they fail to do so, fans can rest assured that Moss and Gaffney can continue to consistently produce for at least a few more years. 

Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan

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    What started out as an incredibly promising season for this pair of exterior rushers has taken a marked turn for the south in recent weeks.  

    Prior to Sunday, Brian Orakpo had not registered a full sack since Week 9, and Kerrigan had not gotten to the quarterback since Week 11's matchup against the Dallas Cowboys.  

    But on Sunday, the tandem came up with a pair of clutch plays that essentially sealed Washington's victory. 

    With just over nine minutes to play, the Giants had the ball at Washington's two-yard line. A touchdown would have cut the Redskins lead to 13 points and given Eli Manning, the quarterback who came into Sunday's game leading the league in fourth-quarter comebacks, a somewhat realistic shot at once again bringing his team back from the brink of defeat.  

    Facing 4th-and-goal, Manning dropped back and threw a touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks, but the play was called back on account of a holding penalty against Orakpo. Replays showed that Orakpo would have gotten to Manning had he not been held, and while a sack would have been ideal, the holding call moved the ball back to the 12-yard line.  

    Once again facing a 4th-and-goal, although with considerable more real estate to cover on the second attempt, Manning dropped back. This time, it was Kerrigan who would bring him down before he could release the ball. The sack ended the Giants drive and any realistic hopes of winning the game.  

    Both Orakpo and Kerrigan have a long way to go if they are to reach the level at which Giants defensive end Jason Pierre Paul is playing. Pierre-Paul looks like he will be one of the league's dominant pass rushers for years to come. But the two men came up big on Sunday and prevented Eli Manning from leading another fourth-quarter comeback.